Government to combat plagiarism and illegal degrees

The Russian government has designed a new set of rules to combat fake dissertations and degrees. The move follows a recent order by Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev after a series of scandals exposed well-known politicians, businessmen and officials who illegally received degrees from prestigious Russian universities.

According to a recent study conducted by Anti-Plagiarism, one of Russia’s leading analytical agencies in the field of intellectual property, one out of every 10 theses on history defended in Russia involves plagiarism.

The biggest scandal over fake dissertations occurred in the summer of 2013 at Moscow State Pedagogical University, one of the country’s top institutions. Due to serious violations in the preparation of dissertations, several people lost their degrees, the local dissertation council was closed and the head of the university was fired.

Amid the ever-declining prestige of Russian science and university degrees, the government decided to take a set of countering measures to improve the situation.

Medvedev commented: “Frankly, the latest scandals regarding the granting of fake degrees by domestic universities affected the prestige of national science. Therefore the quality of dissertations, the transparency of their defence and the elimination of violations in their defence should be among the priorities of state monitoring in the near future.”

According to state plans, the responsibilities of dissertation councils in awarding degrees will be significantly tightened. The adoption of special rules should help avoid scandals in future.

It is planned that the Higher Attestation Commission, a national government agency that oversees the awarding of advanced degrees, will be responsible for implementing the new rules.

Vladimir Filippov, chair of the commission, commented: “The present system of attestation of highly qualified scientific personnel, and in particular candidates of science and PhDs, is no longer efficient and has discredited itself.

“Currently we are completing the design of new rules and a new regulatory framework that will serve as a basis for the formation of new thesis and expert councils.”

According to the plans, the new rules will require every degree applicant to publish the text of his or her work on the internet before defending the degree. Public officials will not be allowed to defend their theses in dissertation committees that have any affiliation with them.

Finally, the period of appeal of dissertations will be increased from the current three to 10 years from the date of defence.

It is planned that the list of such rules will be expanded.

According to Filippov, the new rules – which have already been approved by the prime minister – will create conditions for a significant decline in the number of dissertations defended by officials and businessmen.